Today is my Grandma Gert's birthday, and she deserves a tribute here. She passed away about a year and a half ago, and we miss her very much. I am lucky to have so many wonderful memories of her, so that when I look back on photos and think about old times what I mainly feel is happy. And hopeful. She and my Grampa were married for sixty years, wowza! Here's the happy couple at a family wedding:
I thank my grandparents for giving me one of the best gifts I ever received: as much time as I wanted spent out in nature, away from hovering adults and structured activities, just to play and explore. Out on Lake Trail Farm my sister and I ate apples and berries right off the bushes and trees, built elaborate forts out of leaves and branches, invented our own detective games, found fossils, went swimming, climbed trees, drank water straight from the spring with a little tin dipper. I think I even had a "slug collection" going at one point. Heavenly. And among all of the fuzzy memories a few sharp ones stand out. Small little things that earned their place in my heart simply because they were reapeated year after year without fail. As a child I took it for granted that some things just *are* to be counted on, but as an adult I am humbled by the care and faithfulness that went into mainting those tiny traditions. Here are just a few:
Every time we visited my grandparents' house they would give my sister a pack of gum and me a tiny box of Sunmaid raisins. I don't remember my grampa being out of raisins even once over the course of my entire childhood.
Their driveway was designed to circle around, so in driving away, you had to drive back by the house once more. After every visit my grandma would look out her kitchen window and make a funny face at us when we drove back by the house. And we would make funny faces right back.
In the fall my grandpa would go out to his little pumpin patch and carve all of the grandkid's names on a pumpkin, then we would get to go find our pumpkin. One time he accidentally carved my name upside down, and then re-carved it right side up. Ooooh, I felt special with such a fancy pumpkin.
Tiny traditions! But they meant a lot. No stress, no big expectation or chance for being let-down, just little routines that were special only because we remembered to do them. As a child I might have said, "My grandma loves me because she gives me raisins." And I hope now that my new family can find our own tiny traditions. I can't design our life so that we eat turkey at the same house every Thanksgiving. But can we always make time to fill the birdfeeder every Saturday, with Ivo using the scoop.
Here's a picture of me out on Lake Trail Farm, circa 1982. Just a girl and her margerine tub making happy memories.
As we learned last year, we made the drive out to the pumkin patch with no expectations.
And look what we found, a horse-drawn hayride. yay! off to a good start . . .
After the hayride we set off to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch. They were only 20 cents a pound so we told Ivo "Let's get the biggest ones we can find!" But he had his own ideas and looked for the rottenest ones.
He loves those rotten pumpkins. We finally talked him into taking pictures of the rotten pumpins, and bringing a fresh pumpkin home. At home we carved two of them and painted one.
Here's the one Ivo painted for the Unplugged Project at Unplug Your Kids. He had so much fun mixing the paints and scrubbing them onto the pumpkin with a big fluffy brush. He said it was just like a carwash, and that's just about the best compliment Ivo could say about anything.
Last year I was at a Waldorf conference and many of the mothers in attendance (me included!) had the same concern: "But Waldorf toys are so expensive!" The lecturer nodded in an understanding way and then offered his response that waldorf toys are actually not expensive at all. He said if a mother wished to spend a hundred dollars or more on a single doll, well that is just fine because it will surely be a beautiful doll and will keep a craftsperson in business, and it is much preferable to a mass-manufactured doll full of synthetic materials and made by machine, but that it is much "more waldorf" (his words) to sew a simple rag doll right at home. We all heaved a collective sigh of relief at that point, except for the moms who said they don't sew. "Well, go ahead and learn then," the teacher said. "There are books written to teach eight-year-olds how to sew a doll. There's nothing wrong with using a book for children." He went on to warn us all against getting too caught up in the "accoutrements" of waldorf, and against perfectionism in general. Good stuff that I am still thinking about today, almost a year later. Here are a few other waldorf-y toys that *can* be very expensive, but don't have to be:
The much-lauded playsilks can be made at home easily, using scarves from Dharma Trading Company (about $2 apiece) and Kool-Aid or food coloring. It is as easy as can be, and the benefit is two-fold: there is the fun of dying the silks as a family activity, and then you have the silks to play with for years.
As for those $300 playstands being sold on-line? Well I won't knock 'em because they are wonderful toys and well worth the money, but we simply didn't have the money so we made our own for about $40. And Josh is no handy-man by any stretch. But looking at the design you can just tell it isn't rocket science. And it wasn't!
I don't think I've ever been to a thrift store that didn't have a good supply of wicker baskets to be had for a song (la-la-la!) We use them for playing and for toy storage. Hand-crafted ones are great of course, but if you can't afford it you can't afford it. These have a similar look and are recycled, which I think is a nice lesson for Ivo. Okay for all of us!
Okay, well these are really expensive . . .
Just kidding! Ivo plays with this kind of stuff all the time. free, free, free!
Some of these blocks were purchased as a set, imported from Poland no less (why? why? why?!) And some were cut from a tree branch that fell into our yard. Guess if Ivo cares which ones cost $40 and which ones were free?
This is not meant to demean the beautiful Waldorf toys available online and through catalogs (and at a shop nearby if you are lucky). I have a true appreciation for fine craftsmanship and the skill that goes into making wooden toys and natural fiber toys. And while many are out of my price range I certainly would not say they are "overpriced" at all. But if you can't afford it, simply don't have the money, period, there is no reason to feel bad about it. We have our creativity and a world of natural materials to be had for the taking. Children don't need much-- a lot of times the gift is in what you aren't giving them rather than what you are. ("less is more" is a common theme in designing Waldorf play spaces). Even lovingly hand-crafted toys can contribute to consumerism if you feel you or your child will somehow be more complete if you can purchase them. Here's what I try to do: window shop, find ideas, purchase things that I really feel are a good value for our family (and I don't mean cheap, I mean a good value for our family!) and with the rest, just "make do": create it ourselves, find it used, or just put it out of my mind and move in another direction. And with the winter holidays coming I think I may need to post that on my refrigerator as a reminder.
I have more thoughts on this, but for another day--this is getting really long and if you've read this to the end, then thank you! You're too kind :)
(this post title is a Joni Mitchell reference, I was trying to be clever. not sure if I pulled it off though!)
Since beginning Seasons of Joy we've done a lot of watercolor painting. Ivo really enjoys painting days, and sometimes we paint together as a family. So as a result we have a lot of artworks floating around the house. Some are stunningly beautiful; those Stockmar watercolors really do their thing. I think it's nice to have abstract art on the walls for Ivo to look upon with his imagination. When I was a little girl we had several pieces of nonrepresentational art in our home, and I must have pondered them for hundreds of hours over the course of my childhood. But at this point we could easily wallpaper most of the house with all of the paintings, so we've had to come up with some more uses for them.
I've started using hand-painted business cards and tags for my etsy shop, which I cut with an Xacto knife and then round off the corners with a scrapbooker's corner punch. Then I hand stamp them with my shop name and info. Ivo likes to imitate this process so some days we make "business cards" as our handwork. His are stamped with pictures of cats and horses from his Melissa and Doug Stamper Set.
Another project that puts our paintings to use is making cards. Yesterday we made a set of notecards by ripping and cutting paintings and gluing them to cards along with scraps of wool felt. The results aren't photographed very well, but they turned out very cute and kept Ivo busy for a long time.
On one of the cards he dictated a note to his speech teacher, who was home sick last week:
Dear Teacher Janis,
I miss you so much and I love you OK? You feel better OK? We have a bird feeder at our house.
So the new baby and I did some bonding this weekend, the results of which are not suitable for showcasing at the moment (if ever!). It's true what they say, the second baby can be completely different from the first. Bernina was obedient but rather dull. Janome is full of clever tricks but seems to want to put herself in charge. We're finding our way. Ha--I need to stop referring to the new sewing machine as "the baby". This is how rumors get started. I have real life friends and relatives who read this blog.
While I did spend much of the weekend holed up in my studio, Ivo (with sniffles) snuggled in a nest of pillows by my side, we managed to complete Mom Unplugged's first Unplugged Project. Ivo really enjoyed painting with leafy twigs and making dots with the end of a stick ("footprints" he called them). We also used acorns and pinecones and one rock. Josh even joined us for the project, making it a family art afternoon. Thanks Mom Unplugged!
Tomorrow I have to finish up a custom order for my shop and then work on some new goodies. And I promised Ivo we'd go to the deli for lunch and then hit the thrift store to pick out a new toy. He is hoping to find this $69 wooden camper. I told him, "Well we'll certainly take a look for it. You never know." Um, I hope he forgets about it before morning. Why did I even let him see it? I am hoping to find a couple of lamps and a work table. Thrift stores, craft marathons, a willing accomplice, and a deli sandwich. It's going to be a good day :)
Remember this post, wherein I lamented the special challenges of having an only child? Well, those days are over. Meet my new baby, Janome DC2007LE. Somehow I ended up with this beautiful new machine, ahem, decor computer, and I still can't comprehend what wonderful thing I must have done to deserve such a surprise. Somebody must want me to catch up on my fall sewing projects. Three pairs of corduroy pants have been cut and pinned for Ivo, and laid to the side since the beginning of September (why? why do I do that? I don't know.) Holiday gift creations remain stuck in suspended animation over the dinner table, talked about (yapyapyap, that's me doing the talking, naturally) with no sign of actually starting any projects . But procrastination no more, I cannot wait to get started learning my way around this little sweetheart. My poor Bernina, I feel a little guilty about bringing home a new machine. Her little presser foot is going to get all out of joint, whatever that means. She has served me well for fifteen years, though, and she deserves a nice three year rest, a little tune-up, and then she will be ready for Ivo. "When I'm six, I sew on the machine when I'm six." He'll tell you all about it.
It's nice to start with a picture, so here is a "before" picture of when I organized Ivo's books. I like to motivate myself with before and after pictures, it's very satisfying to me. Strange but true. This was a big job, and the picture only shows a portion of the mess. Our library sells children's books 12 for a dollar, so it can be so hard to resist. but yikes.
Ok, on to the books meme. Stacey from Blooming Fields tagged me for this, and it's all about books. I like this kind of thing, so here we go:
1. Hardcover or paperback, and why? I like a paperback book with a really good binding.
2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it… I liked Stacey's "Rainy Day Books" with big chairs and tea. Doesn't that sound so cozy? But not to be a copycat, I would have a children's book store and call it something cute like "Firefly Books". I think fireflies bring up a lot of happy memories for many people. We would have books for children and books about parenting, uplifting things about creating a harmonious and nurturing family life. And there would be big fluffy chairs and coffee and baked goods and things. This is my fantasy so I don't have to worry about little kids smearing pumpkin bars on the merchandise.
3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is… "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." from The Wind in the Willows. I can't come up with n all-time very favorite off the top of my head, but that's a pretty good one.
4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be …. Fred Rogers, I think he counts as an author. Maybe an odd choice to those of you who are big readers, but I really can't think of anyone else I'd rather meet.
5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except from the SAS survival guide, it would be ... The Complete Stories of Erskine Caldwell, then I could read a new story every day for 96 days. Or maybe I'd pick Be Here Now, so I could blow my mind and return from the island as a yogi or something.
6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…. I have to say I agree with Stacey on the hands-free book holder and page-turner. For lying in bed reading and eating ice cream, of course.
7. The smell of an old book reminds me of….going to the flea market with my mom and my sister when I was a little girl.
8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be…. Any member of The Little Fur Family, warm as toast, smaller than most, in little fur coats, and they lived in a warm wooden tree.
9. The most overestimated book of all times is…. ummm . . . Great Expectations (sorry tenth grade english)
10. I hate it when a book…. splits down the middle from a cheap binding.
Thanks, Stacey. Sitting around daydreaming about books was much nicer than what I should have been doing (cleaning the kitchen and picking up toys). Ok, now I'm going to tag Jenny from Wildwood Cottage.